I have a little mantra that I often say to my students and mentees: “Whatever we accept becomes acceptable.” By this, I mean that we each get to choose where to draw the line with regard to what we say is okay. Then we vote with our actions–as well as our inactions–regarding what we are willing to put up with. We do this as individuals just as church elders and board trustees do this, too, as members of governing boards.
For example, the Willow Creek elder board, for years, found it acceptable for Bill Hybels, in the unchecked privacy of his own home, to “counsel” a married woman who was said to be “suicidal” and who supposedly had “lied” when she had curled into a fetal position and confessed with bitter tears that she had long been sexually involved with Pastor Bill. Because the Willow board accepted Bill’s relationship with this woman, his pattern with her became acceptable.
See how this principle works?
Similarly, the Simpson University board found it acceptable in the Summer of 2011 when former Simpson President McKinney knowingly breached the employment contract of a full professor/dean just weeks after she had proposed to raise all the money, including her own salary, voluntarily, without being paid a nickel for doing the extra work of raising $240K for her department. Granted, the board did place a letter of reprimand in the president’s employment file, but the board decided it was generally okay for Simpson policy and California contract law to be violated, even by the president, and even at the expense of distracting and demoralizing the entire university workforce. Simpson’s last three presidents (Grant, McKinney, and Dummer) disregarded the “binding” nature of Simpson contracts.
Whatever we accept becomes acceptable.
In a similar vein, I listened for five hours to a prominent employee who worked for decades at a Christian university and shared the testimony of how her long, high profile stint there ended poorly not too long after the president said to her disapprovingly, “Do you know how much power you have?!” She told me the president panicked because of what he feared she knew given her connections with big time donors of the school. Her lament was lengthy because it involved the matter of realizing that others were in-the-know about unsavory things at high levels at the school. But the part of her story that sticks with me most was hearing her grievous remark:
“No one will stand up! No one will do anything about it!”
I ask all my readers, is that true?
Inevitably we answer the question, “What will we accept?” by choosing what we will and won’t accept.
Personally what will you do — and what should a good board do — upon finding out firsthand that things are not right in our Christian organizations?